Victim Studies 020: Ivan Milaton June 4, 2012 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by Heather Whitney
Ivan Robert Marko Milat, otherwise known as The Backpack Killer or The Backpack Murderer, is a serial killer from Australia whose murder series spanned from 1989, at the age of 45, to sometime in 1992. He was found guilty for the murders of seven people, attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery.
Milat did not show a preference in his victims, he would murder both men and women. By the time his murder series was over, Milat had murdered 2 men and 5 women. The victims were between the ages of 19 and 22. Most of the victims were found with the zipper on their pants undone, but the button was still fastened. The female victims usually had their shirts and bras pushed up to around their shoulders, which indicates that they were most likely molested. Some of the female victims were found with no underwear or pants, but condition that the remains were found made it difficult to know if the victims had been raped.
It is believed that all of the victims had been gagged and put into positions so that Milat felt like he was in complete control. Unlike many serial killers Milat did not prefer to use one method of murder, but instead would vary between shooting, stabbing, strangling and beating his victims to death. If he murdered two victims at around the same time he would often switch between methods of murder.
The first and second victims of Milat, Deborah Everist and James Gibson, went missing in 1989 and were not discovered until October of 1993. They had both been stabbed multiple times. It is possible that both of these victims had been paralyzed after being stabbed so violently that their spinal cords were severed and cut.
Milat’s third victim was Simone Schmidl, she was the only victim to be murdered alone. Simone had gone missing on January 20, 1991 and was found on November 1, 1993. Simone had been stabbed to death and like many of the victims she had her spinal cord severed completely.
The fourth and fifth victims were Gabor Neugebauer and his girlfriend Anja Habschied had been missing since December of 1991 and were discovered on November 3, 1993. Gabor was most likely strangled to death as he had a fractured hyoid bone, which is usually a sign of strangulation. His skull had six bullet entry holes and one bullet hole in his upper body. Gabor was not murdered at his gravesite because there were no shell casings or bullets found near his grave. Over the whole area 90 shell casings were later found. Anja was different than all of Milat’s other victims because she had been decapitated. Experts claim that Milat had made her kneel with her head facing the ground before he decapitated her. Her pants were found near the crime scene of Simone Schmidl.
The sixth and seventh victims were Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. The women had gone missing in April of 1992 and were discovered on September 20, 1992. These women were the first of Milat’s victims to be discovered, but at the time there was no indication that a serial killer was on the loose. Joanne had been stabbed 14 times in the heart and lungs. Like many of the victims before her, Joanne had been stabbed so violently that spine had been cut. Caroline had been shot in the head 10 times and had one stab wound. She had a piece of fabric that was wrapped around her head that is thought to have depersonalized her from her killer. When a serial killer depersonalizes a victim it allows for him/her to remain detached from the crime and to make the crime less real. Experts believe that Milat used Caroline’s head for target practice because of the different angles that the bullets entered the skull.
Unlike many serial killers, Milat’s motive for murder is not thought to be sexually motivated, but instead is thought to be about control and pleasure. Gags and restraints were used in most of the murders, which shows that Milat had the control he wanted throughout the crimes. He would spend time with the victims before, during and after their murders. Near each gravesite there was a makeshift fireplace, cigarette butts and sometimes cans with bullet holes. Milat was confident enough to stay around his victims for a certain period of time without fear of being caught.
Although the victims were not murdered in the same way Milat disposed of all the victims in the same manner. All of the victims were found dispersed throughout the same forested region. Each victim was placed facedown and their hands were put behind their backs. This was done deliberately, but it is not known why Milat chose to do this. A pyramidal shape was made with sticks and ferns and then placed on top of the bodies.
On January 25, 1990, a man named “Bill” picked up Paul Onions, who was visiting from England and hitchhiking to go fruit picking. Paul began to notice the man acting strange after driving for an hour. “Bill” then stopped the truck and claimed that he was going to the back of the truck to get some tapes, but Paul noticed there were many tapes in the front of the truck. Paul went to leave the truck and was threatened with a revolver. Paul jumped out of the truck and ran into oncoming traffic. At first “Bill” stayed at the truck grinning, but then made an attempt to wrestle Paul. Paul managed to get a woman to stop her car and drive him to the police station. It would not be until years later that this event was seen as relevant to the Milat case.
After hearing about bodies being found, the woman who saved Paul’s life had called the hotline number for the task force, but it was overloaded due to the amount of calls that the hotline was receiving. It was not until November 13, 1993 that Paul heard about the bodies that were being found in Australia and he decided to call the hotline number of the task force to give information about his attacker. The responding officer thanked him for the information and hung up, which left Paul to think that his information was not relevant.
Eventually, a new program was introduced to sort through the evidence and recordings of calls into the hotline. The files of both Paul and the woman who saved his life were placed under a “lead” file. The police were already looking into the Milat family based on other information that was given and Ivan Milat’s history involving the alleged kidnapping and rape of two girls in 1971. He had been acquitted for this charge, but it aroused suspicion. On April 13, 1994 the note regarding Paul’s attack was discovered and shortly after he was flown to Australia to show officers where the crime took place and was able to pick Milat out of a video “line up” of suspects. It was because of Paul’s ability to point out Milat that all warrants were granted and evidence tying Milat to the murders was discovered.
On May 22, 1994, Milat was arrested for the attack on Paul. Evidence was then found tying him to the 7 other murders. On July 27, 1995, he was found guilty of all charges. Milat was sentenced to 6 years in prison for the attack on Paul, 6 years for false imprisonment and robbery and received a life sentence for each of the 7 murder victims. To this day Milat claims that he is not guilty. Since going to prison Milat has been known to have cut off a piece of his own finger, swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects. In 2011, Milat went on a hunger strike and lost 25 kilograms in an attempt to get a Playstation.